§ SUPPLY—considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) £968,857, Victuals and Clothing for Seamen and Marines.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he hoped, before the Vote was agreed to, that some explanation would be given regarding the change which had been made in the victualling department The right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty ought to give the Committee the reasons that had, in his opinion, justified these alterations. A good deal had been said respecting the reduction of this Vote, and on reference to the Estimates, he found that the diminution chiefly had reference to clothing and other articles which had hitherto cost £204,000, but for which this year only £92,000 was demanded. It was all very well for the present Administration to take credit for this reduction; but it was well to bear in mind that the diminution was occasioned, not by the price of the articles having been lowered or fewer having been bought, but in consequence of the present Board of Admiralty making use of the large stores accumulated by their predecessors. The Secretary of the Admiralty had the other night referred to these accumulations, especially in the matter of stockings, and from the tone of his remarks some persons might be led to think that the previous Administration was very greatly to blame. This, however, was by no means the case. The stores were accumulated during the time of the Indian Mutiny and the Crimean War, and as large quantities remained after these wars were concluded it was thought better to keep such of the stores as would not deteriorate, in case similar emergencies arose, rather than sell them at a great sacrifice. Much could be said on both sides of the question, and for that reason he did not intend to criticize the policy which had dictated their sale. If anything could be got for them, he quite agreed that it would be better to sell them. He was afraid, however, that the items to which he had referred by he means represented the £204,000, the amount of reduction, and he was afraid there was really a reduction in articles of which it was absolutely necessary to keep a permanent supply on hand. To this he 1292 most undoubtedly took exception, believing it to be unjust towards the Navy. As regarded the reduction in the Vote for Clothing, from £300,580 to £180,669, he was afraid that when the seamen came to hear of it they would naturally think that inferior clothing was being supplied to them, which would prove detrimental to the Navy. He hoped this would not be the case. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord would postpone Votes 3 and 4 until certain hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, who were especially interested in the subject, had had an opportunity of mastering their details.
§ MR. HERMON
said, he wished to have some explanation as to the increase of an item for the victualling and clothing of servants.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, in reply to the question of the hon. Member for Preston (Mr. Hermon), he had to explain that a most important improvement had been introduced into the least effective part of the Fleet by the substitution of Marines for common servants. There was a large number of persons who were popularly, though not with strict justice, termed idlers, who did duty as servants, and for these men Marines had now been to a great extent substituted. As to the questions addressed to him by his hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir John Hay) he would remark, in the first place, that the items in the Estimates had been framed after the most careful inquiry, and that he was satisfied he was asking for a sufficient sum of money to keep up the stocks of victuals and clothing in an efficient state. Every care had been taken that no ground whatever should be given to the sailors for supposing that they were being supplied with articles inferior to those which they had been accustomed to. Indeed, the Committee which was lately appointed to investigate the question of victualling savings had been expressly instructed to bear in mind that its most important feature was that of health and comfort rather than economy. For the future, he hoped the victualling department would be placed on a more satisfactory footing. Formerly, the comptroller was responsible for the purchase and custody of victualling stores, for the accounts, and in the main, for the yard establishments. It had, however, been thought convenient to divide these several functions, 1293 and consequently the contract and purchase department would look after the buying of stores, and the Accountant General would look after the accounts. So that the store department would have only the general charge of the stores and the responsibility of advising the Admiralty when there should be fresh supplies, and as to what improvements ought to be introduced. Having thus reduced the business of the department to one-third of what it was it, of course, became unnecessary to retain an independent officer in so high a position as that of the comptroller of victualling. He felt confident that the division of labour which had been introduced would turn out to the public advantage.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he wished to call attention to the large sum required for the Coastguard Service. The primary duty of this body was to prevent smuggling; the body was composed of 6,450 men, and the annual expense to the country was nearly £700,000. It appeared, however, from a Return which he had moved for last year that the Coastguard only detected fifty-one cases of smuggling in a year, involving seizures to the value of £626. In his opinion, the time had arrived when the House ought to endeavour to procure a considerable reduction of the number of men employed in this service, which was of comparatively little use since we had abandoned our policy of maintaining a system of high protective duties. He believed that it would be practicable to reduce the cost for the Coastguard one-half before coming before Parliament-next year to propose the Vote. It might, perhaps, be said that to do this would be to throw a large number of men out of employment; but upon inquiry it would be found that these men could easily find employment in the Mercantile Marine, in which there was a scarcity of men, one-third being foreigners.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, he was of opinion that the Government paid a larger sum than was needful for the provisions for the Navy in consequence of their mode of dealing. Hitherto, so far as the supply of meat was concerned, they had been in competition with all the other butchers in London, making their purchases of cattle in the worst market in the world, the New Metropolitan Market, where they had to compete with the whole of London, instead of 1294 buying in such places as Aberdeen and the West of Ireland. He might add that the Government had often been advised to manufacture as little as possible; yet, in face of this maxim, he found that they carried on the manufacture of salt provisions, flour, mustard, coffee, and other things. Why should they not, he should like to know, buy their flour in the open market, as was done by all the 10,000 bakers in London? Why, too, instead of roasting their coffee on shore, and keeping it in tins for twelve months, did they not, as was done in merchant ships, get it roasted on board, where they had plenty of hands for the purpose? When put in tins, roasted and perhaps ground, and used after the lapse of a year, it became "stale, flat and unprofitable." They might just as well have an infusion of tea bottled up to be kept until it would become a puzzle to chemists. How it was possible that such stocks of provisions could have been accumulated by those who had the management of affairs at the Admiralty he could not understand. Why, for instance, should they have on hand a stock of pickles sufficient for four years? The disgraceful story about the anchors had not been lost on the public; and, perhaps, this was the least of it. No more wasteful system could be pursued than keeping on hand large stocks of articles which were not wanted. If a little more of the spirit of business were infused into the Admiralty and War Office, the Army and Navy would be better administered, and the country better served. He had listened with great attention to the speech of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Department a few evenings ago. There was in it a good deal of artistic combination, and it exhibited great research and knowledge of details. His right hon. Friend had gone a good way in the right direction; but he would be all the better for a little pressure forward still, for a great deal remained yet to be done.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, he entirely concurred in every word that had fallen from his hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Mr. Alderman Lusk). He agreed with him that the Government ought not to: manufacture what they could buy fairly and reasonably in the open market. The Admiralty were now buying American and Australian beef in the open market 1295 with a view of ascertaining whether a supply of it would be acceptable to the Navy; but there were some difficulties in the way, inasmuch as a contract had been entered into three years ago for a ten years' supply of preserved meat at Deptford, and that contract could not be got out of without the payment of a penalty of £1,000 or £1,100 a year. In reply to the hon. and gallant Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay), he might observe that it was entirely a mistake to suppose that the supply of provisions had not been kept up to a good standard; in fact, there was in some instances, especially in the transport department, an excess. As to the stock of clothing, it was in all the departments far too high. The accuracy of some of the figures which he had given a few evenings ago had been disputed; but no one denied that there was a supply of clothing for several years. Of hair for beds there was two and a half year's supply; bed cases four years' supply; materials for packing goods to be sent to foreign parts, four years' supply; mits for the men, one and a half years' supply. They now, consequently, asked for a moderate sum in the Vote submitted to that Committee, but thought they were certainly asking for quite as much as was required for the supplies of next year.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he concurred with the First Lord in the measures he had taken for reducing the number of servants afloat; and as it was only in deference to Sir Sydney Dacres' opinion that the late First Lord (Mr. Corry) did not do so, he should be glad to hear that Sir Sydney had changed his opinion. He (Sir John Hay) thought that such men only should be employed as could act not only as servants when required, but could also render valuable assistance in time of war. As to the stock of preserved meats, it was no doubt desirable to reduce the stock if it was superabundant. He did not say that good preserved meat was not to be bought; but the Department had seen what might happen in the case of the Goldner contract, when the tins of what should have been wholesome meats were found filled—not here and there, but by thousands—with offal and every abomination. For this reason the Duke of Somerset, then at the Admiralty, determined that the meat should be packed 1296 under the eye of some person responsible to the Crown; and under the contract with Messrs. Hogarth the process of preserving meats for the Navy was earned on at Deptford under the inspection of Government officials. Up to that time preserved meats were only issued to the sick, and were supplied in very small quantities; but now they were issued regularly as provisions for the ship's companies. He trusted that the Admiralty would be careful in a matter of such great importance. The late Board attempted to enter into contracts for a supply of Australian preserved meat; for while the price paid to Messrs. Hogarth was 11d. per pound, it was hoped that the Australian meat might be bought for 7d. The French Government had contracted for a considerable supply with some establishment in Australia; but the late Board felt that if they entered into any such arrangement some officer of the Crown should be present during the process of tinning, and he should be glad of an assurance from his right hon. Friend that this precaution would be taken. He wished for some explanation with respect to the items of light and culinary fuel, in which he observed there was a considerable reduction in the amount.
MR. ALDERMAN W. LAWRENCE
said, he had been informed that the surplus stores of one dockyard might be selling off, while at another yard contracts were being entered into for a supply of the same kind of goods. He had also been informed that the stores on board a ship coming into dock were usually sold, and then disposed of by the purchaser to some other dockyard, so that contractors sometimes bought from the Government in one place, and sold to the Government their own goods, at a profit, in another place. Why not transfer these surplus stores from one port to another? He understood that even at the present time contracts were out for supplies for India, when the very same articles were being largely sold at the dockyards. He wished to know whether each dockyard was considered as a separate establishment; and, whether it was true that stores were purchased for one dockyard when the same class of articles were being sold in another?
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he could assure the hon. Member that there was no such theory nor any such practice. So far 1297 from it, there was a constant transfer of stores from one dockyard to another. The Government would not have any such cast-iron rule of accounts as to require one dockyard, to sell off surplus stores which were required at another; and he might mention that previous to the very large sale of stores at Woolwich, the Admiralty had taken the greatest precaution by sending details of those stores to every establishment at home, and even to establishments abroad, to prevent the waste of those stores. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Gourley) had gone into the subject of the Coastguard; but he (Mr. Childers) did not think the Committee would wish him to discuss the question of the strength of the Coastguard upon this Vote for Provisions and Clothing. He would simply remind the hon. Gentleman that the present Government, when it came into Office, considerably reduced the Coastguard; and he might add that, though the Coastguardmen would still be employed in revenue duties and the protection of life and property from shipwreck, yet the main object of the force would be to constitute a Naval Reserve. The 4,200 men composing it were all blue-jackets in the prime of life; they went to sea every other year, and were the first force the country would fall back on in case of war. As to the coals, the old practice was to purchase under Vote 10 all the coals required for engineering purposes, and under Vote 3 what were required for culinary purposes. That was an unnecessarily complicated system. It caused labour and trouble in passing the consumption in the galleys of each ship and each sort of coal as a cash transaction through the Admiralty books; and it had been thought better to purchase all the coal under one head, calling upon the responsible officers of the ships to account for what had been consumed for each service. The change of system had led to considerable economy. A question had also been asked about the purchase of preserved meat, and allusion had been made to the Goldner and Hogarth contracts. The Goldner story was an old one. The transaction occurred before the sale of preserved meat was anything like a general trade. [Sir JOHN HAY: It occurred in 1854.] That contract was a decided failure, and, in some respects, possibly something 1298 worse, and ended in a great catastrophe. The Hogarth contract was in 1865 or 1866, and it was made because it was very wisely determined to carry out much further than before the practice of issuing preserved meats. That determination had resulted in decided good. But he was bound to say that the extreme precaution which his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) wished to be adopted—namely, to buy no preserved meat which had not been enclosed in the tins in the presence of a Government officer, would not be practicable. He preferred to purchase from reputable parties, taking the usual precautions as to testing and inspection, and he could not give any such undertaking as that which had been asked for. A great change for the better had taken place in late years, and preserving meat was better understood now than formerly. The late Board of Admiralty took the preliminary steps for issuing to the fleet a quantity of Australian meat. [Sir JOHN HAY: On trial.] The reports from the Channel Fleet as to that meat justified the present Board in purchasing a further quantity, and they had, accordingly, contracted for 200,000 lbs. It would be satisfactory to the Committee to know that the price at which the contract was taken was, in round numbers, 6½d. per lb., the price at Deptford last year having been 11½d. per lb. In this matter they would proceed only tentatively, because it would be the extreme of folly to do anything that would cause distrust on the part of the seamen. Hitherto they had been successful, and he hoped they would continue to be so.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, this was another instance how things were discussed in that House. The Goldner contract was some twenty years old, and no purchaser except, perhaps, the Admiralty would have thought of going to Hounsditch to buy meat. The hon. and gallant Baronet (Sir John Hay) might as well say that, because his grandmother was cheated fifty years ago in taking a bad shilling, he would not run the risk of taking a shilling now. It did not follow that because one man sold a bad article a quarter of a century ago, every other person did the same now. He did not find fault with the Admiralty for selling old stores, but he found fault with them for buying so many new ones, thus losing the interest of the purchase- 1299 money for three or four years, and finally selling them at one-fourth of the cost.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ £159,368, for the Admiralty Office.
§ MR. F. A. STANLEY
appealed to the First Lord of the Admiralty to postpone the Vote, as both the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) and the noble Lord the Member for Chichester (Lord Henry Lennox) were prevented by illness from attending, and this was a Vote on a subject in which both took considerable interest.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he did not wish to do anything unfair, or not in accordance with the feelings of the Committee. Due notice had been given of his intention to take Votes that night. If it was the wish of the Committee, the Vote could be postponed; otherwise, he would be ready to proceed.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he would venture to repeat the appeal which had been made to the First Lord of the Admiralty by his hon. Friend. The absence of the right hon. Gentleman and the noble Lord really arose from illness, and not from inattention to duty. The right hon. Gentleman attended when the Estimates were moved at great inconvenience to himself; he was then suffering from bronchitis, which had since considerably increased. He (Sir John Hay) was not asking to have the Estimates postponed, but only this particular Vote. Looking to the great interest which his right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) took in this question, and the great changes which had been made, the request was not unreasonable. He did not say that the changes deserved reprobation. If passed, after full discussion, they might appear deserving of praise.
§ Vote deferred.
§ (2.) £68,794, Scientific Departments, Navy.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he wished to ask whether the Report of the Hydrographer to the Admiralty on the Suez Canal would be placed in the hands of Members, and be attainable by the public generally? He understood that the Report, which was an extremely valuable one, was only available for the Naval Service.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir John Hay) probably referred, not to the Report of the Hydrographer, but of another officer (Captain Nares) who had visited the Suez Canal at the time of its opening. That Report would be available to the public. The Hydrographer of the Navy and the Director of Works had gone out at the joint request of the Admiralty and Foreign Office to examine the Canal as far as concerned its future use. The Hydrographer had already returned, and the Director of Works was to come tomorrow, and when these two officers had written their Report it would be considered by the Admiralty, and he presumed there would be no objection to lay it on the table of the House.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he wished to know whether the Admiralty charts had been so corrected as to show where deposits of mud had collected in the Suez Canal; and, whether those connected charts had been issued to the public?
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, the corrections had been made, having been ordered some weeks ago; but he was not sure whether new charts had yet been issued.
§ COLONEL BARTTELOT
said, he was curious to know the meaning of an item of £1,540 for instruments and clocks required for the observation of the transit of Venus in 1874?
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, it was his duty last year, at nearly the close of the Session, to propose a certain expenditure in connection with the observation referred to, and he received the approval of the House for that expenditure. It was absolutely necessary that preparation should be made some time before. The expedition would not leave this country until the end of 1872, or the beginning of 1873; but it was requisite that the Astronomer Royal should be in a position to purchase and commence the adjustment of his instruments during the present year.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, the fact that Captain Cook was dispatched from this country to observe the transit of Venus in his time three years before it occurred was a sufficient justification for the precautions which the Admiralty were taking to ensure those accurate observations which the advanced state of scientific knowledge demanded in the present day.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he hoped that the Admiralty Report on the Suez Canal would be at once made public.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, that under the head of Awards for Experiments and other Scientific Purposes he observed an item of £500 as a gratuity to the Institution of Naval Architects. Being the treasurer of that institution, he fancied that he never received in one year more than £250. He saw that some expenditure had been incurred on account of dredging at Pembroke Harbour. That seemed scarcely to be an experiment or to come under the head of scientific expenditure.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, if his hon. Friend referred to his books he would probably find that between April and April he had received £500, though not, perhaps, between January and January. With respect to Pembroke, there had been some very interesting experiments as to the blowing up of a rock, which were of great scientific value.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, there was an increase in this Vote, and it was therefore desirable that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty should watch it closely, for an immense amount of money was sometimes expended on scientific operations without any tangible result. The sum of £1,695 was mentioned in connection with students of naval architecture, and the amount would appear to indicate that a large number of persons were engaged in this study. He was at a loss to know how they would be employed in the future. We had only four or five new ships building, and there was no probability of an immediate increase.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, there were only thirty students at the School of Naval Architecture, and he did not think that number excessive considering the importance of the subject. He regretted the absence of his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), who had been accustomed to speak on this question, to which he had paid particular attention. Although a lover of economy, he (Mr. Childers) should not be willing to see a reduction in this item. If it were not for the preparations for observing the transit of Venus there would be a reduction of this Vote. The principal items of apparent increase related to the education of our officers, and 1302 on these points he believed both sides of the House were in accord.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, he wished to call attention to a matter of considerable importance. He feared that full use was not made of the Chart Department of the Admiralty; and he was confirmed in his view by the fact that there had been a gradual diminution in the sale of Admiralty charts since 1865. In that year 83,000 charts were sold; in 1866, 79,000; and in 1869, 75,000. Probably the mode in which they were disposed of accounted for this. There was only one channel for that purpose, and the general public had not proper facilities for purchasing them. The charts could only be obtained by the public from a single firm, in the City, to whom application had to be made from all parts of the kingdom. He presumed that a greater discount allowance was made to the firm and in which the country chart-sellers only partially participated; but, at any rate, the terms which the private chart-publishers offered were much more liberal and gave a direct inducement to the chart-sellers in the outports to offer private instead of Admiralty charts to their customers. No one who understood this subject would believe that any private chart was superior to the Admiralty chart. On the contrary, it was desirable that everything should be done to induce shipowners and ship captains to use the authorized charts, from which all others must be more or less taken. It would be well if some arrangement could be made by which outport chart-sellers could obtain charts direct from the Admiralty, and anyone sending to the Admiralty for a certain number of charts accompanied by a remittance should receive the same discount which was allowed by private publishers to retailers of private charts and by the Admiralty to the one firm entrusted with the monopoly of the disposal of their charts. He believed the late Hydrographer of the Admiralty initiated some such system, but it was allowed to drop. He (Mr. Graves) trusted that the subject would receive attention.
§ MR. T. BRASSEY
said, he could testify to the extreme accuracy of the charts issued by the Admiralty, to their marvellous cheapness, and to the preference exhibited for them by ship captains and all skilled navigators. He had never experienced the slightest difficulty 1303 in procuring thorn at the smallest out-port, for though they were not always kept in stock, they would be immediately obtained if ordered. No doubt other charts were offered unless the Admiralty charts were particularly inquired for. This indicated that there was something in the way of commission which made it more profitable to sell private charts, He might mention that some little difficulty arose from the use of various scales in the charts of the Admiralty.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, there was no officer in whom the Admiralty placed more confidence than in the Hydrographer. He (Mr. Childers) remembered that when he was at the Admiralty five years ago the question of the best arrangements for the sale of charts. He was then disposed to take very much the same view of this matter as that expressed by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves). His opinion, however, did not prevail, and he was not aware that the subject had been discussed since. He would take advantage of this suggestion to have the subject examined, and if any practical advantage would result from a change it would probably be made.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, that perhaps one difficulty in the way of any alteration in the present system would be found in the circumstance that the Hydrographer's office was situated so high in the building.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, there was nothing the Hydrographer would more regret than being brought to a lower level.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he would suggest the advisability of making a chart of the Suez Canal and adjoining coast.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, he knew that the captains of merchant vessels had frequently found a difficulty in obtaining Government charts. He thought that if the object the Government had in view in publishing these charts was to be of advantage to the public they ought to insure their being placed within reach of those whom they were intended to benefit.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ (3.) £878,352, Dockyards and Naval Yards at Home and Abroad.
MR. J. D. LEWIS
said, he desired, as the representative of a Dockyard borough (devonport), to draw the attention of his right hon. Friend the 1304 First Lord of the Admiralty to some of the hardships which had been inflicted by the late discharge of workmen, and he ventured to bring the matter forward, because he felt convinced that, though it was the wish of the House that every possible economy should be practised, it was also their wish that no economy should be exercised that was opposed to justice or fairness. He was sure the First Lord of the Admiralty would reecho that sentiment. But some statements had been made with reference to recent discharges from the dockyards, which he thought it right to bring under the attention of his right hon. Friend. His right hon. Friend would remember that he (Mr. J. D. Lewis) had, on a former occasion, inquired whether on a certain day a certain number of men had been discharged from Devonport Dockyard without having previously received any notice, and without receiving their pension papers—a practice which was contrary to all ordinary usage. His right hon. Friend, in reply, stated that he had, on inquiry, found that a certain number of men had been discharged, not without notice, but without their pension papers, and his right hon. Friend admitted that considerable irregularities had been committed in that respect. He had reason, however, to believe that his right hon. Friend had been misinformed, and that the real truth was that, on a message being received from the Admiralty complaining that the amount of wages for the week was in excess of what it ought to be, twenty-eight men, of whom thirteen were under notice and fifteen not under notice, were then and there discharged. Among the fifteen discharged in this irregular manner there was one who only wanted three days to complete a fresh year, and had he remained those few days he would have become entitled to a small addition to his pension. His hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves), in referring to the subject of dockyards last year, expressed his belief that the men working in the Government dockyards received less than they would in private yards, on the ground that by length of service they would become entitled to a pension; and that was no doubt true as to a portion—those who were called the established men. In the case of several of the men to whose discharge he was more parti- 1305 cularly alluding, another two months was all that was necessary for them to have completed a fresh year of service, and thus to have gained a small addition to their pension. Several of the others had served for periods varying from twenty-seven years and eleven months to thirty-one years and eleven months. The injustice thus inflicted ought, in his opinion, to be brought to his right hon. Friend's notice; for no one, he believed, would regret more than his right Friend that any injustice should be inflicted by his subordinates, or that his instructions should be carried out in a manner which was unjust or unfair. He desired to say a word or two with regard to the established men, as they were called. It was possible that many hon. Members might have believed, as he did, until he became acquainted with the subject, that men were entered into the yard first as hired men, and that if they were efficient and conducted themselves properly they were subsequently placed on the establishment. But the fact was that there was a number of men who were never placed upon the establishment, but were cast adrift after any number of years' service with only a small gratuity. Repeated applications had been made to him by men who had served sixteen or even nineteen years, and had been discharged without any provision. That must be admitted to be a great hardship. But it did not stop there. The Western Morning News, a journal which supported the Ministry, stated that there were to be many men discharged who had lost an eye, a hand, or a finger in the service—and he mentioned these things to give his right hon. Friend an opportunity of denying them if they were unfounded. He did not know whether the country wished to be economical after this fashion; but if it did, it was desirable that it should know how these economies were earned out. It was true, the non-established men knew that they were to have no claim to pensions; but the equivalent was that they should work longer hours and receive higher wages. Latterly, however, both hours and wages had been reduced, so that their position was the same as the other men, without the claim which the others had to pension. Accordingly, they received no more than the establishment men, and became liable to be sent away without a sixpence in the world. It 1306 must be remembered that officers of superior grade, to induce them to retire, were having ten years added to their service, while humble workmen who were unable to speak for themselves were sent adrift at an hour's notice. Might not something in the way of pro rata allowance be given? If, for instance, a man had served eleven months only, he might be entitled to eleven-twelfth's of a year's pension, and so on throughout the lists. The men had further been deprived of a privilege which they used to enjoy on former occasions, that of a free conveyance back to the quarter from which they originally came. He was not complaining of the right hon. Gentleman's general action in reference to the reductions, which were meant undoubtedly for the public good. He admitted that the enormous difficulties which had presented themselves rendered it impossible for his right hon. Friend to attend to several matters of importance; but he hoped, now that his attention had been called to cases of hardship, he would give the parties some compensation. In cases of accident, such as the loss of an eye or a limb, he (Mr. Lewis) would suggest that a small gratuity should be given to the sufferer who met with the injury in the service of the Crown. And in cases where men had come from the North of England to the dockyards, he hoped his right hon. Friend would sanction the granting of railway passes to them. His right hon. Friend at the head of the Department had a kind and feeling heart. It was right that these things should be brought to his knowledge; and if he saw his way to an alleviation of the sufferings which had been caused, he did not think the country would throw difficulties in the way of its accomplishment.
§ MR. RODEN
said, he objected both to pensions and dockyards. His right hon. Friend deserved credit for having reduced the number of men employed from 18,000 to 11,000; the only thing was that they had not gone far enough. He did not see why Government should build ships at all when they could buy them 25 per cent cheaper; and he hoped there would soon be an end of the absurd and ridiculous system of dockyards.
§ MR. FOTHERGILL
said, he approved of the considerable economy effected; but, as a large employer of labour, he would venture to remind the Government of the 1307 maxim upon which private manufactures acted—never to make anything which they were able to buy. Where the departments of business were multifarious superintendence was extremely difficult, and it was often desirable, in such circumstances, to purchase work. He had taken the trouble to go through some of the Government yards—he would not name them, as that might be invidious; and he must say that they were far from being properly conducted. The yard to which he particularly referred was not far distant from his own works. [Laughter.] Well, he believed they were all alike. Such skulking he had never seen anywhere else in his life. He knew how men in private yards would sometimes neglect their duties if they were not kept up to the mark; but such downright skulking he had never seen before. It was impossible to go behind a door or a wall without seeing four or five follows doing nothing; they had harder work watching each other than they would have had at regular employment. The waste of material was also something astounding. He would mention one instance which he had noticed. Some workmen were preparing pieces of timber for a bowsprit. They put the pieces together and found they were from eight to ten feet too long. Three or four of the men then used the saw and cut off about ten feet. There was not much to blame in that, but there was in what followed. They cut the piece of ten feet into short lengths of a foot and cut them half through; but instead of making the plugs which seemed to be necessary to the completion of the bowsprit, they used the adze and reduced every atom of the timber that had been cut off into chips. He saw a large iron vessel building, about the width of that House. There were two or three boys and seven or eight men. There was a fire at one side where the rivets were made red-hot. The men quietly conversed, waiting for the rivets. A boy carried one across to the other side, but he walked so leisurely that before he got half-way the bolt was too cold to be used, and he returned with it to the fire to have it made red-hot again. This was repeated over and over again. He believed he saw the boy make at least ten journeys. The men took the matter very coolly, and continued in conversation all the time. His deliberate conviction was 1308 that Government dockyards were the very worst places that could be found for shipbuilding or any other manufacture, and he earnestly trusted that, if it were possible, shipbuilding would be put a stop to in those establishments, and that the operations there would be limited to repairs.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he had already this Session very fully expressed what appeared to him the sound principles with respect to Government establishments. No one would think of having Government dockyards if we were always to be at peace. A Government dockyard, employing a large number of men, would, under such circumstances, be treated rather as a nuisance than a public benefit, Government as such not being good employers. But we had dockyards to be ready in time of war; and, having before him the experience of the United States in the late war, he should be very much indisposed to lay down the doctrine that it would be possible for the country to go on without dockyards altogether. Our policy, however, was to limit the manufacturing establishments to the greatest possible degree. We should manufacture nothing we could buy; where we could buy we ought to buy, and arrangements having now been made under which we could purchase so satisfactorily, we got the best market in every respect. Having laid down that general doctrine, he was sure the Committee would not press him to say more. During the last twelve months he had been exposed to every species of misrepresentation in consequence of his persistent reduction of these establishments, and had every kind of difficulty to encounter; but what he had effected, with the assistance of his Colleagues, had been done strictly on principle, and he assured the House that the same principle would continue to actuate them in future. With regard to the superintendence of dockyards, he stated the other day what his own views were. He believed the best course for the Government to take in respect to the management of establishments was to get the best managers 1309 they could. He would not lay down the doctrine that they must be naval officers; but he did not believe they would get a body of more competent managers if they excluded naval officers. What they wanted was to concentrate the management of dockyards, if possible, in a single man, and a certain amount of naval experience was wanted in every dockyard. How to carry out the principle was a matter of great difficulty. He entirely concurred in the view taken on this subject by his hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), and that appointments should be made irrespective of questions of promotion in any particular rank. That was sound doctrine, and that was the view on which they intended in future to act. Great inconvenience would result if they were at the present time to abolish the offices of Admiral and Captain Superintendent. He now came to the questions relative to Devonport. His hon. Friend (Mr. J. D. Lewis) had spoken with great kindness of himself and his Colleagues; but with reference to the reductions which had been made, he stated that certain cases of hardship had occurred, and he asked them, as far as possible, to remedy them. There were two classes of men—established and hired men. To hired men they were under no obligation whatever. They were hired from week to week, and whenever Government thought fit to dispense with their services they could do so. If they had served for a certain time, they were entitled to a certain amount of gratuity, and he was not aware of any case in which that rule had not been applied. It was difficult to apply a rule in one case and not in another. If they had a rule, it should be maintained as a rule. The making of exceptions was very often not tenderness but weakness, and led to great inconvenience. If the rule was twenty years' service, it could not be applied at seventeen, or it would cease to be a rule altogether. His hon. Friend had suggested that the men should receive passes to their homes. Well, where the men had been engaged from a distance railway passes were, in many cases, given to them. But that was an indulgence which must be guarded. If railway passes were given in all cases, without reference to the understanding at the time of entry, considerable inconvenience would be incurred. Discretion 1310 had been left in the hands of the superintendent, who, no doubt, had exercised it properly. But the real complaint, he believed, was with regard to established men—that being entitled to pensions some of them were not treated with consideration. Now, he had before him all the instructions which were given with respect to Devonport—the yard named by his hon. Friend—and nothing could be more precise. The instructions were that a certain reduction should be made, but exceedingly gradual—not more than ten and at another not more than fifteen in a week. That reduction was to be effected by discharging all establishment men between sixty and fifty-nine; when they were exhausted, all establishment men who were incapable of doing a hard day's work under exposure whose age was over fifty-five were to be discharged. With individual exceptions that was the latitude given to the superintendent. The ago of sixty used to be the common termination of a man's service; and they were to discharge, first of all, men between sixty and fifty-nine, going down gradually to fifty-five, but first taking men not equal to a full day's work. Those were the instructions, except that there was, of course, always power to discharge men of indifferent character. It would be found that when the rule had been at all relaxed, the Admiralty had been exceedingly careful in their inquiries; and in several cases papers had been sent back for further information as to the exact circumstances under which particular men were discharged. Where, leaving the officers on the spot, a certain amount of discretion, a particular rule had been departed from without sufficient cause, the Admiralty by no means accepted their decision off-hand; the papers of men proposed to be discharged were sent back, requiring the superintendent to justify the reason given, and he (Mr. Childers) was not aware of any exception to which his hon. Friend alluded. His hon. Friend complained that the men had not received notice. All he could say was that after hearing some slight irregularity had occurred, he not only telegraphed for complete information, but he sent for the superintendent to come to London, and with the Controller of the Navy, examined him on the subject. Having ascertained that some slight irregularity had occurred, they were anxious to correct it and they did 1311 so, and he believed that on that point there was no grievance at present. He wished to say a word on the question of the discharge of a considerable number of men. It was difficult, if not impossible, for the Government to lay down the doctrine that, because they had been accustomed to employ a body of men, therefore those men should be continued in the service, though they were not required. What the Admiralty should do was to be perfectly plain and clear in their engagements, and to adhere faithfully to them; but, except in exceptional eases, they ought not out of a feeling of charity to deviate from the course of businesslike conduct, and incur a liability which did not properly belong to them. The conduct of the Admiralty had been governed by such considerations, although they had not, at the present time, arrived at a conclusion as to what should be the future establishment at the different dockyards, or how many men should be engaged in each on terms of superannuation, and how many should be simply hired; that point would he carefully considered in the course of the year; and he could assure the House that, seeing the difficulty which attended measures of retrenchment in this respect, the Admiralty would not be tempted to increase the number of established men beyond what the service absolutely required.
§ MR. SAMUDA
said, the most serious matter in connection with this Vote was that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty, instead of really carrying out the policy he had announced when moving the Estimates, was in fact making arrangements for continually increasing the annual amount of tonnage to be built. Not content with the 13,000 tons built last year, he proposed to undertake an additional 2,000 tons, and build 15,000 this year, and, what was still more serious, instead of confining himself within the limit of manufacturing only what was absolutely necessary, he was making preparations for building 20,000 tons of shipping annually for the next twenty years. Considering that the duration of these vessels would be ten-fold as great as the duration of vessels built in former years, the country must, under these circumstances, be prepared at the end of twenty years to have 500,000 tons of iron shipping on hand. What was the necessity for 1312 this when the right hon. Gentleman had shown that the country possessed a fleet adequate for its security? A few years ago, when our Navy was in a position of comparative weakness, measures for strengthening it were wise and proper. He (Mr. Samuda) then urged it strongly in the House, and was desirous, even, that it should become equal in strength to that of any three other maritime Powers; but great progress had been since made, and the right hon. Gentleman had himself stated that we possessed nearly twice the number of armour-protected guns in our Fleet compared with those in the French Navy, and if we were still somewhat under the strength that he (Mr. Samuda) desired, the degree of supremacy would be reached long before the end of the period contemplated by the right hon. Gentleman. The building of 20,000 tons of shipping a year was an extravagance which the House ought not to sanction. In the present position of affairs, there were many reasons why the programme for building should be regulated with a view to a uniform employment over many years—nothing could be worse or cause more misery than excessive building one year and giving out little or nothing the next. Neither was the First Lord of the Admiralty justified in setting himself up as an example of extraordinary economy for saving the wages of a few men, when he was calling on the country to build in the Admiralty dockyards ships which might be constructed more cheaply elsewhere. The right hon. Gentleman had shut up two dockyards on the ground of economy; but, although he had dismissed 1,000 or 2,000 men from Woolwich and Deptford, he had increased the number of men at Devonport and Keyham in the building operations from 5,800 to 6,300. The right hon. Gentleman was bent on that policy against the manifest injustice and unfairness of which he (Mr. Samuda) had protested, and should continue to protest—namely, drawing into the Government dockyards the whole shipbuilding power of the country. The only purposes of the Government dockyards should be to provide for shipbuilding in time of war, the repair of ships in time of peace, and the execution of such small amounts of wood shipbuilding work as the Government might require. Since his accession to Office the right hon. 1313 Gentleman had not sent a single order to any of the great establishments on the Tyne, the Clyde, the Mersey, or the Thames. While we were giving the Government credit for economy, we must remember that an element of economy had sprung up independently of anything they had done. In past years it had been necessary to incur great expenses in keeping wooden ships in repair. It was now admitted that extensive maintenance of wooden vessels of war was a mistake, and the abandonment of it was the cause of nearly half the saving in the Estimates; but if an iron vessel were properly built, twenty years scarcely made any difference in it, and the repairing account was a mere fleabite compared with that of a wooden vessel, and our economy might be doubled by doing away with the repair of the useless vessels of the past.
said, he must express his opinion that the policy which had been announced by the First Lord of the Admiralty with reference to the maintenance of the dockyards, and the building of 20,000 tons of shipping annually, was not a satisfactory one. He thought it would be more statesmanlike to foster and develop the private yards, and to maintain the public dockyards simply for the purposes of repair and as places in which ships might be built in case of war. The right hon. Gentleman had pointed to the condition of America when the civil war began, but the analogy did not hold good; America did not build vessels for other countries as England did, and England would best prepare for any emergency by employing the private establishments which now existed on the Clyde, the Tyne, the Humber, the Mersey, and other rivers, and which, if necessary, could be placed at the disposal of the Government by Order in Council. It would, indeed, be better to have their shipbuilding resources scattered over different parts of the Empire rather than concentrated in one or two places which would be liable in time of war to attack on the part of the enemy. Such a policy would obviate the necessity of fortifying in many cases. He trusted the Board of Admiralty would consider whether it would not be wise to give up building vessels on their own account, and to depend entirely on the private resources so abundant in this country.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, that the reason why dockyards were so essential in time of war was not so much for the repair of single ships, but that there might be space, and men, and everything else needed available for the repair of a large fleet. It would be very inconvenient if, after a successful or unsuccessful general action, it became necessary to distribute the ships along the coast instead of repairing them at one or two places, where they could again be got ready for action. In these days of iron-clad ships whichever side might win in a naval engagement would be sure to suffer severely, and the vessels would be unfit to keep the sea until they were repaired. A nation would therefore multiply its power if it had conveniences for refitting its ships quickly. Moreover, while wooden ships could be repaired by any men employed in the building of them, the only way of securing a staff of men to repair iron strips with rapidity was to train a certain number of persons to the work of building and repairing. It was for that reason, therefore, that it was desirable to continue to build iron ships in the dockyards, so that when the necessity arose they might have these trained persons to do the duties for which the dockyards were intended. With reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms), he was glad to hear his right hon. Friend (Mr. Childers) say that he conceived it better on the whole that those naval establishments should be under naval officers, because it was necessary to maintain discipline. He concurred with him also in thinking that when they had got the right man for the place they should not discharge him at the end of a certain time. He would suggest that the appointment might be for a term of years, with power to renew the engagement at the end of the term. If they only looked at the dockyard as a building yard the question was an open one who was the best man to superintend it, and there was nothing more difficult than to find a person thoroughly competent for that duty. If, however, they could get a naval officer of great ability, who had also the welfare of the service at heart, he would undoubtedly be the best man for the service; and having once got such an officer, they should keep him as long as he did his dirty well, irrespective of rank or of the other 1315 causes which were supposed at present to make it necessary to remove him. He had listened with great pleasure to the speech of the hon. Member for Merthyr (Mr. Fothergill); but he thought the singular story he told of the waste of labour and material in the dockyards tended to show that the master shipwright ought not to be the storekeeper, but that there ought to be a distinction between the officer who had charge of the stores and the officer who, in the exigencies of the service, had to demand them. By abolishing the division of inspection which used to prevail, they facilitated to some extent the operation which the hon. Member for Merthyr had so amusingly related to the House. Before coming to the Vote, he hoped his right hon. Friend would give them more information about the sale of Deptford Dockyard. [Mr. SAMUDA: And what it is to be used for?] He had taken an active part in the closing of that yard, and had always looked forward to the closing of Woolwich Yard also, although he did not think it had been done with sufficient prudence or care. He was glad to find that Deptford Yard had been disposed of, as he understood, to certain persons who were prepared to carry on some profitable industry in that locality, so as to afford employment to many people who, owing to the closing of the Government establishment, had been suffering very much during the winter. He had heard that the Government would receive about £100,000—£75,000 for the use of the yard, and £25,000 for the ground-rent. But he hoped his right hon. Friend would give them some authentic information on the matter.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, he was aware of the inconvenience of discussing a question of Imperial policy on a Vote in Supply, but as he thoroughly agreed in the principle laid down by the First Lord of the Admiralty and the Secretary to the Board, that the Government should never manufacture when they could buy, he would remind them that that principle must be carried further than it had yet been. The right hon. Gentleman said they could do without these dockyards altogether in time of peace, but that they were required in time of war. Now, it was well-known that our private establishments could produce 100,000 tons of iron ships of war within twelve months—and that without disturbance to the 1316 ordinary production of commercial vessels. The Government dockyards were quite incapable of turning out such a quantity, so that on an emergency the private yards would become the chief source of the supply, and the public establishments would become of less account to the country. But then it was said they should be maintained to do repairs. But surely if ships could be built in private yards they could be repaired there; and there was no port in this island that was now more than twenty or thirty hours' steam from the seat of government. He thought, therefore, the Government ought to revise the whole question from an Imperial point of view, and consider whether they ought to keep up these enormous establishments, at least to their present extent.
§ MR. LAIRD
said, he could not agree with the hon. Member who had just sat down. If he were rightly informed in regard to the resources of private establishments, there were only two or three graving docks large enough to take in first-class ships of Her Majesty's Navy. Therefore, so far as repairs went, unless great additions were made to those private establishments, the repairs for the Navy could not be effected by them in time of war. Fault was found with the Government for closing some of the dockyards, and again for not doing more work in the private yards, which latter course would necessitate the doing less work in the public yards. Having sat on the Select Committee some years ago in reference to the Royal Dockyards, he had concurred in thinking that Deptford, Woolwich, and Pembroke Yards should be closed; and he was anxious that Sheerness Yard should be closed also. He felt that Chatham, Portsmouth, and Devonport Dockyards would afford ample means for conducting all the business the country was ever likely to carry on in the dockyards, both in repairing and building ships. He did not think that all Her Majesty's ships should be built by contract. He believed it was desirable to keep up the three yards he had named both for building and repairing purposes; but that it was likewise desirable that a portion of Her Majesty's Fleet should be built and repaired in private establishments. He was for keeping open dockyards as a check upon contractors, but in time of war the dockyards would not be sufficient. If 1317 the Government gave both building and repairs to private firms, this would lead to an increase in graving docks and in appliances in private yards which, with the dockyards, would put this country in a better position for fitting out fleets in a period of emergency than any other naval Power in the world.
§ Mr. GRAVES
said, he differed from the view expressed by the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) as to the inconvenience of discussing questions of Imperial policy in Committee of Supply, as it was really the only opportunity afforded Members for criticizing an expenditure so closely identified with national policy. He would suggest that an evening should be devoted to the statement of the First Lord when bringing in the Navy Estimates, and that the general discussion on his statement should be taken on another evening. He thought the same course would be advisable in the case of the Army Estimates. It was impossible for any Member of the House to be prepared to discuss such a statement as that of his right hon. Friend (the First Lord of the Admiralty) the same evening as it was delivered, extruding, as it did, over three hours and such a wide range of subjects. He should like to see Pembroke Dockyard closed, and only the yards at Chatham, Portsmouth, and Plymouth kept open. He hoped that the sum of £10,000, which appeared in the Estimates for new buildings, would not be expended on Pembroke Dockyard, because, owing to rook at sill of dock and from insufficiency of depth of water at entrance, it could not be made suitable to large vessels. He was prepared to share with the First Lord of the Admiralty any odium or unpopularity that might be created by the closing of some of the dockyards. Two years ago he advocated in this House the closing of Woolwich, Deptford, Sheerness, and Pembroke, and he thought that he and others who supported him in that view ought to take their share of any censure which a portion of the public might pronounce on the First Lord for closing dockyards; though, when he brought this question forward and advocated this most judicious economy, it met with but little support from either side of the House. He must, however, say that he thought this reform ought to have been accomplished less suddenly than in had been, and spread over a longer period of time. The men in the 1318 Government yards were working at lower wages than those given in private yards, in the expectation of steady employment, and with the hope of participating in the superannuation fund. He thought it a real grievance and hardship that men who had been twenty-nine years and ten months in the dockyards should be discharged without that amount of remuneration to which they would have been entitled had they completed thirty years' service. Private employers would not have acted as the Admiralty had done in this respect. The men were discharged against their will, and he considered that in whatever month they were required to leave, the broken part of the year should not be deducted from their service but should be counted as a whole year in awarding their superannuation. He was sure his right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty must feel sympathy for the workmen, and he believed he (Mr. Childers) would be supported by the public if he gave those men their full superannuation. Economy was desirable and necessary, but the country did not want injustice.
§ MR. MUNDELLA
said, he gave credit to the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) for his willingness to take a share of the responsibility which rested on the Admiralty, but was of opinion that a great deal of political capital had been made out of the course which had been pursued by the Board. He hoped his right hon. Friend the First Lord would persevere in the course he had entered upon, and carry out even more rigorously his reforms in the dockyards. He believed that it was in the interest of the working men generally that these men had been discharged, and if it was thought necessary to keep them out of charity, it would be better to pay them 4s. 6d. a day for doing nothing, and give them an allowance of tobacco into the bargain, than employ them at wasting timber in building and repairing ships which would be of no use. He trusted the right hon. Gentleman would continue in the course which he had begun, and try what could be done by means of contracts open to the whole country.
§ MR. ALDERMAN LUSK
said, it was all very well for a private yard to contract to build a ship, but it was no light matter to put a ship into a private yard for repairs, and it would never do to send vessels of the Royal Navy there. No ship of his should ever enter such a place for repairs if he could help it, for you knew how a ship went in, but you did not know how it would come out, nor what the expense would be. It was necessary for the Admiralty to go on building ships, in order to keep abreast of the the times. It was true that an iron ship might last twenty years without much repair, but an iron ship twenty years old would most likely be obsolete. It was, therefore, necessary to keep up some of the Royal dockyards, and to keep men at work there; but they should be as cheaply managed as possible. If we thought wars were to cease we might then give up the dockyards.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, that Deptford Dockyard consisted of three portions, of which the store yard had been preserved, while the other two had been sold for the satisfactory price of about £100,000. He thanked the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) for his willingness to incur a share of any unpopularity arising from the closing of Woolwich Dockyard. So far from acting with any harshness to the men employed in that yard, the greatest possible tenderness had been shown to them. Many of them had been transferred to another dockyard. Very few men had been discharged without some kind of advantage to themselves, and the notice given was very sufficient. With regard to the complaint of the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. J. D. Lewis) that certain men had been inconsiderately discharged within a month or so of the time when they would have received their pensions, he would make inquiry into the matter. The order sent down was to discharge the men according to their age and not specially with respect to the amount of their pensions. In answer to the hon. Member for Gloucester (Mr. Monk) he might state that the foreign yards had gone on under very little control, and a better system was about to be adopted. A storekeeper had been appointed at the Cape of Good Hope Dockyard, but he would take the place 1320 of two officers who, together, received a higher salary.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he wished to call attention to the new class of ships about to be built. When the design of the Inconstant of 4,000 tons burden was determined upon, the object was to have very great speed with a considerable armament, and to rival some vessels then being built in foreign countries. After these vessels had been built, however, it was found that they did not possess the speed or other advantages which had been expected. He had always contended that it was a disadvantage to spend so much money upon so large an unarmoured ship if small ones could be got to carry the guns; but it was only fair to state that on this subject he differed from his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), while he agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry). It was much better to build corvettes like the Volage, of 2,500 tons, than frigates like the Inconstant. They had all the speed of the frigates of 4,000 tons, and it was much better to have three of the smaller class than two of the larger, because such a force being more capable of being divided, was more flexible and more available to the service. He thought that while they were building unarmoured vessels it was much better to repeat the smaller vessels, which cost so much less and had a much lighter draught of water.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, it was usual to raise questions of this kind on Vote 10, when the Committee were dealing with materials.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he should be happy to discuss the question either now or later. As to the particular ships to be built this year he had come to the conclusion that it was not desirable altogether to limit themselves to corvettes like the Volage, but that it was better to have some vessels of the frigate class. The Inconstant, moreover, had been to sea, and they knew what she could do, while the corvettes had still to be tried.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Resolutions to be reported upon Monday next;
§ Committee to sit again upon Monday next.